Governments worldwide are increasingly adopting public policies, laws, and ordinances to reduce plastic pollution. To date, studies have not analyzed the content of, and trends in, these policies. Employing a content analysis and literature search, we set out to better understand: (i) governments responses to this problem over time, and (ii) the state of the available evidence on the effectiveness of policy responses.
Plastic is now the most widely used human-made substance on the planet, and plastics pollution impacts marine and coastal ecosystems, local economies, and human health. Local and national governments are increasingly responding by banning plastic bags and other specific plastic products, taxing the use of certain plastics, and improving waste management and recycling. These are important steps, but alone they will not result in a meaningful reduction in cumulative plastics pollution or encourage development of sufficient alternatives to plastic. Additional policy measures are necessary.
In 2020, the Plastics Policy Inventory and accompanying report, 20 Years of Government Responses to the Global Plastic Pollution Problem, were published, providing a baseline for the trends in government responses to the plastic pollution problem, as well as highlighting some gaps.
As plastic waste accumulates in the ocean at alarming rates, the need for efficient and sustainable remediation solutions is urgent. One solution is the development and mobilization of technologies that either 1) prevent plastics from entering waterways or 2) collect marine and riverine plastic pollution. To date, however, few reports have focused on these technologies, and information on various technological developments is scattered.
Plastic pollution in the ocean is a global problem that requires cooperation from a wide range of groups (e.g., governments, producers, consumers, researchers, civil society). This study aims to synthesize the policy response of governments to the global plastic pollution problem, as a basis for more rigorous monitoring of progress (as called for in Resolution 4/6 of the 2019 United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) meeting) and to inform future public policies.